Day 4 (SOBO), Sunday, 5 miles
Waynesboro to Paul C. Wolfe Shelter
When the shuttle driver (and his boss) dropped me off, and showed me where to start, I opted to hike north for a bit, to find the spot where I had stopped before and then went south. This raised eyebrows, and probably had them wondering if I would make it on my own, and then was advised to hike to the shelter and stop for the night.
Day 5 (SOBO), Monday, 14.1 miles
Paul C. Wolfe Shelter to Reeds Gap
Denali had advised me about the 3 PM shuttle that he planned to catch and a 6 PM shuttle. Never a fast hiker, I was miles away from the pickup spot at 3 PM, and promised myself if anyone was there at the waiting spot when I arrived, I would wait. (Note to self: STOP. Do not hike past the stop. Really. STOP.) Sure enough, I made it to Reed’s Gap by 5:30 PM, and there were about 10 hikers waiting, so I stopped. (My legs really needed the break.) When the shuttle arrived, it was a pickup truck. Most of the guys climbed into the bed of the truck, including one who nicely put my pack into the truck. The driver commented that there was a shower in the bath house, and I took her literally as having one shower. (OK, I told myself, let the guys go first so they can get their beers…) Later, I saw there was a huge bathhouse, with separate women’s and men’s entrances, and the women’s side had two large shower rooms. Pure luxury. I had no camp towel but my bandanas would do just fine. I had just hiked through miles of poison ivy covered trail. It was relief to get clean.
After getting cleaned up, I joined the other hikers at the bar, and chatted with several, including thru hikers, Moonie and Pony Keg, and a dad with his 3 sons from Pennsylvania (PA). The Ridge Runner was also there, adding his own stories to the tales shared. The food was as good as the showers, and the portions were large.
Day 6 (SOBO), Tuesday, 10.7 miles
Reeds Gap to Ty River
The next morning, I joined the group for the hiker’s breakfast. At only $5 plus tax, it was a bargain. I ate my breakfast and chatted more with the PA family, a very happy group, asking how they manage to hike so well together. Their secret – HYOH during the day, with agreed to end of the day goals.
Typical for me, when I reached the shelter, at about 10 miles so far that day, I opted to keep going. I hate stopping early, and will often push on when hiking solo. This day was no different, and I wanted to get in as many miles as possible to finish my trip in another day or two, plus none of the campsites seemed perfect enough for an early stop. So I hiked on, going another 2 miles and down another 500 feet. When I reached the Ty River campsites, I chatted with a local fisherman, checked out the campsites, and opted for the area closer to the bridge. (The debate was being closer to the road and potential locals partying on the trail, or camping in the remote spot where I thought more of the trees looked like widow makers.) Soon after, a young couple set up camp at the far end of the camp area, and a thru hiker, Ninja Turtle from Alaska, set up her tent near me. Ninja Turtle used a bear can and with the can on her pack, plus her bandana, she really did resemble a strong warrior. We had a great chat over dinner, and both were glad of each other’s company. With some prodding by Ninja Turtle, I found an adequate tree, and hung my food bag. Later, other thru hikers arrived, and opted to set up in the more remote nearby campsite. (Fortunately for them, no trees fell that night.)
Day 7 (SOBO), Wednesday, 15.2 miles Ty River to Lovington Springs Trail CampsiteThat night was very cold. I ended up putting most of my clothes, including my puffer jacket, on over my camp clothes. Ninja Turtle and I were both off early, her NOBO and me SOBO. I crossed the suspension bridge, and then Route 56, seeing how close we were to the highway. Fortunately, cold weekday nights are not inviting for locals to party, so no one else came into our camp.
One of my favorite parts of hiking the AT is meeting other backpackers. Not everyone wants to chat, but some do, and as we each fixed our dinners, we chatted about the miles and our lives. (Smash’s dinner was the typical rice sides, but with added carbs, to help satisfy his hiker hunger. Mine was homemade dehydrated rice, beans, sauce and veggies.) In addition to being social, Smash could throw a great bear bag rope. Later, he explained he used to play center field for his school’s baseball team.
The next day, Smash hoped to “smash” 26 miles and meet his friends at the Devil’s Brewery. My guess is he made it.
Day 8 (SOBO), Thursday, 10.2 miles Lovington Spring Trail campsite to Long Meadow WaysideIt was another cold night, actually colder than the night before. During the night, I remembered I had a single hand warmer, and opened it about 2 AM, warming first my hands and then my body with it.
My custom is to get up as soon as I hear someone else in camp move around. At 5 AM, I could barely hear Smash, he was so quiet, but I began to pack up. By 6 AM, Smash was off NOBO, and by 6:15 AM, I was off SOBO. After a few miles, I realized I had lost the top of one of my large water bottles. Although I hated knowing that left garbage somewhere, I just could not hike back a mile or 2 to try to find it. I mentioned it to a NOBO hiker or two (please pick it up if found & trash it).
The trail that day was up and down for 7 miles to the Bald Knob, with lots of great views of Virginia’s mountain ranges, then down 1000 feet to Buena Vista. At some point, my legs were exhausted, and I took frequent breaks. Another hiker let me know Denali was just a mile or 2 ahead of me, but there was no way I could catch up to him. Near the bottom of the descent, and close to my car, I chatted briefly with a young section hiker going to Harper’s Ferry, with a huge pack. I hope he made it up the climb and others to get to Harper’s Ferry. What an adventure and memories he will have.
Final ThoughtsFor me, my hiking adventure was over, and I could rest. Remember the soda cans I mentioned earlier? In my car for days now? Well, they attracted mice, as noted by the droppings near them and elsewhere in my car, plus flies were hanging out at my car. (Super UGH!) Fortunately, neither attacked the extra gear in my car or my post hike candy.
My trip was successful. 77 miles done! Glasgow, Virginia to Waynesboro, Virginia, with just one fall (in the creek), with no injuries other than a few hot spots on my feet. I had met many wonderful thru hikers, saw beautiful vistas, had now climbed higher elevations than ever before, with great success, and completed what I set out to do.
Next step — keep working on my plans to complete Massachusetts and hike Vermont, later in June and July. Happy trails!
A word about Ronald “Stronghold” Sanchez, Jr. – During the second part of my trip, I heard about this awful murder on the AT. Few hikers mentioned it directly, but I could tell others knew, even if they did not say so. Early on, a thru hiker advised me how a woman had been attacked, and later that night, I read online about the murder. I pray for the extended Sanchez family and the others directly impacted by this awful incident.